I'm finding it a struggle to culminate my thoughts, feelings, and growth into a final email; to bring such a dramatic life-and-character-changing experience into some few poignant words at the finale of this adventure.
But I will do my best.
Starting from before the beginning, I had always had the thought in my mind to serve a mission. I knew that was what I wanted. The age change came, however, and I realized something about myself: I wasn't ready. I was far from prepared to serve the Lord, and, as growing up in Utah county would have it, many of my friends and acquaintances celebrated the opportunity to serve earlier. I didn't. I had this sinking feeling in my heart, a growing knowledge that I had sought to repress time and time again, that I wasn't worthy. This announcement became a bucket of cold water poured on my head, a wake-up call of what was important to me. So it took some time, and I prepared.
I can't say that I was fully prepared even going into the mission field. I don't think it's possible to be fully prepared, except that it was possible to be prepared to change. And that's what I was. Coming on mission, I knew that whoever I was before could, and should, be different upon my return. As I reached the MTC, I quickly realized that I wasn't prepared for the separation that those changes required in order for the influence of Him to be present. I found myself separated from anyone that I knew, in a foreign country whose culture and people were nothing like anything or anyone I had ever come in contact with before. In the MTC, I found myself saying, "if it is like this when I reach Liberia, I'm going home." That was a decision in my mind. Thus I let another circumstance shape my decision.
I reached Liberia, and, in a manner of using brief words, I knew it was right. I knew that was where I was supposed to be. It wasn't easy. It was one of the hardest times of my life, and those times shaped who I am.
Experience after experience, companion after companion, I began to learn. I began to understand in part the power of the Atonement of Christ, and I learned to rely on Him, for I was in places and in situations unlike any I had encountered before. I made mistakes. I wasn't perfect. Through my weaknesses, however, I learned.
I didn't learn everything. But it was, and is, my aim. Coming on mission, I didn't know what the gospel meant to me. I grew up in American Fork, Utah, where I was surrounded by other members, and the words and counsels given to me often sounded routine in my ears. They didn't mean much to me, and I didn't understand the vibrant way I saw others fulfilling their responsibilities, taking part in activities, and serving selflessly.
Time passed. I became more comfortable with life as a missionary. For the first time in my life, I would initiate conversations about gospel topics. I would share my beliefs with others. I began to learn what it meant to love someone else and share the things that have blessed my life, but first I had to learn what blessings I had because of these things. Each day I learned something new. I was corrected, chastised, and instructed time and time again, but I found that each time I received such things I grew.
My companions changed, my assignments changed, and my responsibilities changed. Each change in circumstance brought a greater change in me.
And then Ebola was in Liberia, and I found myself somewhere else. I had to take a step back and reevaluate myself. It took time, and I began to see what my personal "Goliaths" are. I began to understand what it meant to be sensitive to the spirit, what it meant to love those around, and how I could do those things a bit better. Just a bit better, each time. A bit better, that's all I needed to do each day.
I adapted, over time, and made friends. I had lingering doubts, and negative feelings from not having closure through the evacuation persisted. I noticed, however, even up to this day, that experiences came, and I met new people each time, to provide just what I needed to progress a bit more. Some people have meant so much to me that I would even consider them family.
And that's something I have loved about mission. Family. I have been away from my family for two years, yet I have found that there are connections between us that we have simply forgotten. We really are all family.
It's time for another change. It's time for my circumstances to be different, and adaptation needs to take place once again. I pray that the lessons I have learned while I have been out here will stay with me throughout my life. Although my calling is changing, I have still made covenants, and I am still the same son of our Heavenly Father. I know that He would not have me learn so many things and feel so many of these things for it to go to waste after a set date, no, there are more things to be learned. There are more adventures waiting.
I do know these things are true. I have stood and sat before countless people of all different backgrounds and occupations, and I will simply and boldly share these things with you as much as I would with those before. This church is true, and is governed by our Savior. Joseph Smith, no matter what slander and lies are presented and proclaimed about him, is a true prophet, and he did experience those things that he testified and died for. The Book of Mormon is a true record, and the knowledge of this truth will set one free, as the scriptures state. I know the Atonement is real. Jesus Christ suffered and died for each of us, and He knows us personally. We are the children of our Heavenly Father, and as such we have divine potential, potential that our Heavenly Father, in His love, wishes for us to reach, even in such great love to give his Only Begotten Son.
I do know these things are true.
No matter the circumstances, we can change and follow Him, be it a 180 degree or a 1 degree change. I know that He lives, and He loves us, come what may.
See you soon.
Elder Makani Rain Price